What Does “I Do” Mean?


I said "I do" and I still do.

I said “I do” and I still do.

These two words which mark the signature on a binding contract seem to have lost their meaning over so many years.  According to the American Psychological Association about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. This being the case, one must wonder if these two words have lost their meaning over time.  Or are they truly being spoken from the heart.

How can the promises that are made between two people as they face each other and later confirmed with, “I do,” lose their strength over time?   How can the commitment behind these two words diminish over time?   How can the love that two people profess to each other simply vanish in thin air?  These are questions that I have asked myself regarding half of the marriages in my family, including my mother and father’s.

Well, as I pondered on this topic, even before I said “I do,” I still never understood why a man, like my father, would dare to make a such an important, lasting commitment if he did not want to be loyal and monogamous.  How could he leave three teenagers behind and establish another family.  I understand that not all situations are the same, but as for my parent’s marriage, the main issue was a lack of leadership and commitment. My father was not the head of the house and never commanded respect from his sons.  He also was not loyal and had no commitment to his own promises – “I do.”  My mother had her own set of issues and broken promises but none of these warranted infidelity.  Of course, after this, trust went out the window.  They had never had laid a foundation for effective communication or the help of the Counselor, so getting over such a tragic situation was virtually impossible.  He then looked elsewhere and left home for another woman.

Those two words, I do, uttered several years before became a punch line.  They became a bed of resentment, anger and lies.  The commitment to “won” became a preoccupation with self.  “What makes me happy,” “How can I have what I want,” “I want, I need.”  “I” becomes the focus instead of “you” or “we.”

I share this story not as a form of catharsis, since I have made peace with my own demons of anger that plagued me as a result of a man not fulfilling his part of a sacred and solemn vow, but as a backdrop to what “I do” should mean.  You see, when I looked into the eyes of my beautiful bride and we exchanged vows, I made a promise first to God and then to my bride that I would love and cherish her, always protect her, work through any arguments, be a servant leader, always respect her, and never leave her.  I also made a promise to treat love as a verb and not a noun.  In other words, I made a commitment to fight for my marriage.

And this is what “I do” means to me. It’s a commitment, a promise before God and bride that two will ALWAYS be “won.”  It means that no there are no obstacles that can’t be overcome.  It means that I commit to making this union work.  Not out of compulsion but out of love.  It means that I and my wife will work on our shortcomings to make our “won” functional.  It DOES NOT mean that it’s easy.  But it does that “It’s worth having and saving.”